A boss will simply direct people to complete the tasks that need to get done. But a true leader will guide those people into becoming better than they were. It takes vision, dedication, and the ability to motivate others to achieve this – a combination that doesn’t come around too often. That is precisely why our society has always valued and respected leadership qualities.
It doesn’t really matter how naturally gifted you are in this area, as leadership skills are something everyone can improve. One of the best ways to do this is to listen to someone who has overcome the challenges and led people to success. If you can’t do this in person, then a great leadership book truly is the next best thing.
Quick Look: Best Leadership Books
- High Output Management by Andrew S. Grove – Get this book
- If I Could Tell You Just One Thing… by Richard Reed – Get this book
- Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Willink and Babin – Get this book
- Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg – Get this book
- The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership by Walsh, Jamison, and Walsh – Get this book
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni – Get this book
- Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader by Herminia Ibarra – Get this book
- Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute – Get this book
- Turn the Ship Around! By L. David Marquet – Get this book
What You Should Look for in a Leadership Book
Leadership books can differ in terms of quality. As not all leaders face the same challenges, you should pick the books that are best suited for your situation.
When looking for books to take your leadership skills to the next level, make sure to pay attention to the following two factors.
Experience of Author
The personal experience of the author is crucial when you’re looking for a leadership book that can really be of worth to you. This means you should look for titles written by proven leaders or by experts who have dedicated their careers to researching this field.
Professional vs. Personal
Business books and personal finance books can teach you specific skills you need to succeed in life. In the same vein, some leadership books will focus on a specific area. This can be a particular industry, sports, etc. These books are great when you need specialized advice.
On the other hand, many leadership books will be more general and focus on the personal skills that all leaders need regardless of their particular vocation. Both will be able to teach you valuable lessons, and it’s up to you to decide which you need more.
Our Picks for the Best Leadership Books
As mentioned, you can look for a more specialized book, but you can also learn a lot from an author who isn’t in your industry – many great leadership traits are universal.
Taking into account both factors from the previous section, we’ve created a list of 10 books that can aid you on your journey as a leader.
High Output Management by Andrew S. Grove
- Who’s it for? CEOs and middle managers
Andrew Grove was the CEO of Intel and he’s one of the people responsible for turning the company into a global juggernaut. As such, he certainly knows how to effectively manage people.
The book explains how to put together highly productive teams, how to get peak performance through motivation, and much more. Grove does this through practical advice.
It’s not the newest book out there, but its status is legendary. In Silicon Valley, many consider it a bible of sorts, and it is just as influential and relevant now as when it was published.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz
- Who’s it for? Startup founders
As a respected Silicon Valley entrepreneur with a wealth of personal experience to draw upon, Horowitz offers advice you can use if you’re looking to get into the startup business.
While you will often hear about the joys of starting your own business, this book notably looks at the problems leaders need to face on a regular basis.
These are things such as firing a friend. The role of a leader isn’t always pleasant, and this book can prepare you for that.
If I Could Tell You Just One Thing… by Richard Reed
- Who’s it for? Everyone
As a co-founder of two successful companies, Reed is certainly in a position to instruct people on leadership. However, this book takes a different approach – it is a collection of advice gained from encounters with some truly remarkable people who have had a part in shaping our society.
It includes bits of wisdom from the likes of Bill Gates, the Dalai Lama, Bill Clinton, and so on. The book contains tangible lessons from different areas of life, all of which can help you become a better leader.
Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Willink and Babin
- Who’s it for? Leaders in high-stakes industries
Jocko Willink and Leif Babin are two former Navy SEALs who learned the value of leadership in the direst of circumstances – under fire. After retiring, they decided to bring those same leadership principles to other fields, including the business world.
The book details the mindset which has allowed them to complete even the most challenging of missions.
From structuring teams to maintaining composure in emergencies, the book covers skills you can apply in any scenario.
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
- Who’s it for? Women in leadership roles
Sheryl Sandberg has had an incredible business career, culminating in her appointment as the COO of Facebook. In her book, she deals with the issues women face on the road to reaching leadership roles.
She covers both the external and internal barriers that stand in the way of female professionals.
While the book is primarily aimed at women, any aspiring leader can benefit from reading Sandberg’s perspective.
The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership by Walsh, Jamison, and Walsh
- Who’s it for? Executives and managers
A legendary NFL coach, Bill Walsh turned the San Francisco 49ers from a struggling team into a powerhouse.
He did this thanks to his “Standard of Performance”, a leadership mentality he used in all aspects of life.
As long as you uphold the standards, professional success is sure to come.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni
- Who’s it for? Leaders focusing on teamwork
Patrick Lencioni is the author of numerous bestselling business books and the president of a successful management consulting firm.
This business fable is his most famous title, and it describes five big issues which can be the downfall of any team.
Lencioni offers advice for handling various specific problems, from the absence of trust to a lack of commitment.
Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader by Herminia Ibarra
- Who’s it for? Any leader
Herminia Ibarra is a renowned business leadership expert. Her distinguished academic career which speaks volumes about the depth of her knowledge on the topic.
Ibarra’s book explains how leaders need to evolve in order to make a greater impact. This involves redefining your role, as well as being more eager to experiment. The book provides practical advice and tools for self-assessment, allowing you to create a plan of action for improvement.
Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute
- Who’s it for? Any leader
Try as they might to avoid it, people often fall victim to self-deception. By failing to understand their own motivations, they sabotage themselves on the road to success.
This can impact anyone, but it’s even worse when it happens to someone in a leadership position. When they break out of this self-imposed box, leaders can achieve more success.
Turn the Ship Around! By L. David Marquet
- Who’s it for? Mentors and leaders
David Marquet was a captain of a nuclear submarine – an environment known for its rigid leadership structure.
But after realizing this was causing poor performance and morale, he bucked tradition and inspired his sailors to take more control.
By turning followers into leaders, Marquet created a submarine with outstanding results. Whatever the “ship” you’re in charge of, the same principles can apply.
Finding the Best Leadership Books
The lessons and real-life experiences contained within these books are an invaluable resource, one that can help you excel in a leadership role. You can make it easier for those that look up to you to achieve their full potential.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an entrepreneur (in which case, our selection of entrepreneur books can also be of great use), a manager, or something else entirely – any leader can find something of interest here.